Frequently Asked Questions: Special Uses Permits

A permit is required when you are asking for special privileges on National Forest land. Examples include gatherings of 75 people or more, operating a business such as an outfitting or guiding service, using the Forest for financial gain, occupying a recreation residence, and commercial filming. The use may be for a one-day event such as a wedding or bicycle race, or for up to 40 years such as a ski resort permit. For more information, check out these frequently asked questions and resources. 

Do all these policies apply to the cabin owners (recreation residences)?

The recreation residence program is more streamlined. Cabin owners should use the information that is posted specifically for them on the Recreation Residence page.

How long does it take to get a proposal processed?

This can vary from 72 hours to well over a year. Your proposal will be screened within 60 days (non-commercial group use and filming is shorter). The processing time after screening varies with the complexity of the proposal and type of use.  Here are some examples of timelines:

  • Non-commercial group use permit will be processed in 72 hours if needed. We appreciate having more lead time on these.
  • Film permits take two weeks for simple proposals. A major motion picture may take about 6-8 weeks before the permit sideboards are clear and a permit can be issued.
  • Applications to renew existing utility permits take six to nine months.
  • A proposal for a new communication tower in a highly visited recreation area took just over a year to process.

What form do I use to submit my proposal?

This varies depending on the type of use proposed.  Visit the Forest Service Land Forms and Clauses page for a list of forms to use. 

When can I submit my proposal?

This varies depending on the type of use proposed.  Visit the Forest Service Land Forms and Clauses page for a list of forms to use. 

What is the process to get a permit?

 For most uses the process is outlined in these two documents:

For non-commercial group use, there is a shorter process. It can be found at the Non-Commercial Group page.

For organization camps, the environmental review process has a different process. Contact your permit administrator for more information.

What is the Initial and Second-Level Screening Criteria that I hear about?

View a list of the Initial and Second Level Screening Criteria. This is the basic criteria used to review proposals and applies to all proposals except non-commercial group use proposals which have different criteria.

Our company has an existing permit that we have a proposed project for.  Is the process the same?

 Proposals involving existing uses are immediately accepted as applications upon submission.  In reviewing the application, the authorized officer will consider:

  • Whether the proposed use would conform to the applicable Forest land and resource management plan;
  • Whether the area requested is still being used for the purposes for which it is or was authorized;
  • Whether the holder is in compliance with the terms and conditions of the authorization, and;
  • Whether the holder has the technical and financial capability to continue to undertake the use and to fully comply with the terms and conditions of the authorization.

These proposals should still be submitted during the appropriate open season.

What are the fees to apply for a permit?

There is no fee to have your proposal go through the first level of screening by the Forest Service.  If your proposal is accepted, then processing and monitoring follows the following procedures:

  • Processing.  All non-recreation proposals have a processing fee once accepted which covers the environmental review and permit preparation.  This will vary from $131 to thousands of dollars depending on the complexity of the proposal.  Recreation uses only have processing fees if the work for the government to process the proposal is 50 hours or more of staff work.
  • Monitoring.  If a proposal is approved and the project requires government oversight beyond routine permit inspection, such as construction of a new facility, the proponent will be required to pay a monitoring fee. This will vary from $131 to thousands of dollars depending on the complexity of the proposal.   Like with processing, recreation uses only have monitoring fees if the work for the government to monitor the project is 50 hours or more of staff work.

There are a few exceptions to these cost recovery fees like non-commercial group use.

Do I even need a special use permit?

You need a permit if:

  • The activity on NFS land involves 75 or more people including spectators, or
  • There is a fee being charged or if income is derived from the use of the land, or
  • You will need to occupy, use, or build on NFS land for personal or business purposes, whether the duration is temporary or long term.   Personal, unguided recreational use does not need a special use permit but may need a wilderness permit, parking permit or other recreational permit.

I am looking at buying a business (i.e. resort, utility) that has a permit to operate on the Carson National Forest.  How would I get the permit for this use to continue under my business name?

Ask the current permit holder who their Forest Service permit administrator is and contact that person.  The process starts by you and the current permit holder completing and submitting a form called “Holder Initiated Revocation of Existing Authorization” which is form number FS-2700-3a found on the Forest Service Land Forms and Clauses page. You will need to show financial and technical ability to operate the business.  You would also need to provide a bill of sale document.

Who can I contact to ask questions or vet a proposal concept?

Please contact the Ranger District where you intend to operate. 

Where can I find a copy of the regulations the direct the Forest Service regarding Special Uses?

Copies of Special Uses regulations can be found on the Forest Service Directives website.

Where can I find out more about land use guidelines on the Carson National Forest?

Visit our Land & Resources Management page for more information and guidelines.